1:5:10:365 EcoTip Blog

January 21, 2008

:021 Auto-Off Powerstrips

Suggested Review – :002, :003, :004, :005, :019

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

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1:5:10:021 Tip: In tip :019 I talked about how one of my computers with all of its peripherals had a trickle current that was using 40 watts of electricity even when the computer, monitor, printer and sound system were switched off in standby mode. This was needlessly costing about $80 a year. I suggested plugging the set-up into a power strip that could be shut off whenever the computer wasn’t being used.

What I have found is that my DSL cable box needs to have the “trickle current” or I loose my settings and have to wait for it to reprogram in order to connect to the Internet. That means about 5 watts of “trickle current” is essential for keeping my system functioning. That means switching off everything else should save $70 not $80 a year – which is still pretty good.

I have now purchase a “smart strip” which is able to automatically monitor power use and shut off the trickle current when the equipment is in standby mode. If you are dedicated to shutting your equipment off with a manually operated power-strip every time, that works fine, but I prefer the auto-off function. It remembers when I forget.

Tomorrow I will talk about using your watt monitoring meter to check you refrigerator electricity use and determine how to save energy from this big energy hog.

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Additional Information

The auto-off power-strip I am using is the “SmartStrip”. It has one “control outlet”, three “constant hot outlets” and six “automatically switched outlets”.

The control outlet is for the item that will determine when the others should be shut down. I used it for plugging in my computer (“trickle current” savings 10 watts).

I have used “constant hot outlets” for my DSL cable box (5 watts) and my telephone answering machine (2 watts).

The “automatically switched outlets” are used for my monitor, printer, sound system which have a combined “trickle current” use of 25 watts.

 I had to play with the sensitivity adjustment a bit to get the power-strip to automatically shut down the trickle current when the computer was shut down. But now it works great.

The following is the smaller smart strip from Amazon:
SmartStrip (click here to go to Amazon)

Here’s the smart strip that I purchased. It turns out I could have gone with the smaller less expensive one because I have extra unused outlets:
SmartStrip (click here to go to Amazon)

(in the interest of full disclosure – I have signed up as an Amazon Associate. If you use this link to purchase a “Kill-a-Watt” I will receive a commission – I think it is 4%).

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January 20, 2008

:020 Manage your Maintenance Costs

Filed under: :020 Maintenance Costs — Tags: , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

Suggested Review – none

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1:5:10:020 Tip: Preventative maintenance is an important way to lower the cost of maintaining your home.

According to Coldwell banker every homeowner should plan on spending between 1.5% and 4% of the value of their home maintaining it each year.

We regularly tune up our car to keep it in good running order. The same should be true for our home.

Throughout this year, I will be suggesting maintenance tips that will help tune up the performance of your home to increase its durability, comfort, energy consumption and longevity. They may cost you some money up front, but should save you a bundle in the long run. 

For today’s action you will be calculating the value of your home and how much you should be planning to spending on an annual basis for maintenance. 

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Additional Information

First determine the approximate value of your home. You probably already have a number in mind, but if not you can go to http://realestate.yahoo.com/Homevalues 

This is a free yahoo service that claims they won’t contact you, sell your name or store your information, but I still found the experience somewhat spooky. I typed in my address and within seconds my home was located on a yahoo map and some of my homes details was displayed. It told me my house size, lot size, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the approximate value. They indicated all the information came from public records. I just hate the idea of all this information not being private. Anyway I will save you listening to that rant for now. 

I am going to suggest you earmark 1% of the value of your home annually for routine and emergency maintenance. This amount isn’t for the big ticket items you can plan for like roof replacement or painting -those should be budgeted separately.

For example the median home price in the United States is around $215,000. So your annual maintenance fund for a home with this value would be $2,150. If you hired a plumber to repair water leaks (tip :007) or gas leaks (tip :012) – those expenses would come out of this fund.

Use this maintenance fund to finance the 1:5:10 projects I will be suggesting. By crediting the savings from implementing the 1:5:10:365 tips back into this maintenance fund, you may find that your home maintenance fund will grow to a point where it can pay for the big ticket items without you having to put any extra cash in. Of course that would take a few years, to build up.

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January 19, 2008

:019 Determine Watt Use

Suggested Review – :004, :005
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1:5:10:019 Tip: Today you should familiarize yourself with using your watt use monitor. This is the device I encouraged you to purchase in :005.

Begin by plugging it into an outlet and plugging a standard lamp into the meter. Follow the instructions and try pressing the various buttons to see how it works. The digital readout should closely match the wattage of the light bulb. By pressing the “kilowatt hour/time” button once it should indicate the number of kilowatts used. Pressing the button again should indicate the time that has passed.

Try plugging a number of appliances into your meter and record in your journal how much power they use when they are both on and off in standby mode. For example my computer, monitor and printer use a total of 150 watts when they are on and 10 watts when in standby mode. This is pretty good compared to another computer, monitor and printer that use a combined total of 350 watts when on and 40 when in standby mode.

That 40 watts is the trickle current that is wasted energy. By turning this computer and it’s peripherals off any time it is not being used by flipping a power-strip switch, I could save about $80 a year.

I will be discussing many other ways to use your wattage monitoring meter in future 1:5:10:365 Tips. 

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Additional Information

The wattage monitoring meter is one of the fundamental tools for easily monitoring your electric use. If you haven’t already purchased one you can get it from Amazon. Right now it is selling for $20.98 plus shipping.

To purchase from Amazon (click here): Kill A Watt  (in the interest of full disclosure – I have signed up as an Amazon Associate. If you use this link to purchase a “Kill-a-Watt” I will receive a commission – I think it is 4%).

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January 18, 2008

:018 Micro-fiber Cloths

Filed under: :018 Micro-fiber Cloth — Tags: , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

Suggested Review – none

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

microfiber-cloths-back-sm.png

1:5:10:018 Tip: Microfiber cleaning cloths are a great way to clean up fine dust particles. The design of the fiber picks up and holds dust until the cloth is washed. I am amazed that they haven’t caught on better than they have. If you have trouble finding them, you may have to look in the automotive care section, but they can be used to clean just about any hard surface. Once they are dirty then can be washed out and reused. Never wash them with fabric softener, or a chlorine bleach, and it seems better to use a liquid laundry detergent and not a powder.

That’s my 1:5:10:365 tip for today. Tomorrow we will be using the electricity monitoring meter I encouraged you to purchase in tip :005 to track those hidden energy wasters. Following through with tomorrow’s tip can save a ton of energy and money on your monthly bill.

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Additional Information

I have found the microfiber cleaning cloths at Costco for about $10 for a pack of 20 in the automotive section. I am also hearing good things about the Scotch Brite – microfiber cleaning cloths.

If you know of other sources or have further tips for their use – post a comment.

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January 17, 2008

:017 How to Vacuum

Filed under: :017 How to Vacuum — Tags: , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

Suggested Review – :015, :016 Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

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1:5:10:017 Tip: The way you vacuum is just as important as the type of vacuum cleaner you use. If you are like most people, you will vacuum a carpet the same way every time. Instead try vacuuming from a different direction each time you vacuum. This will help prevent a build up of soil and make your carpet last longer and be healthier.

Tomorrow I will discuss a great way to clean hard surfaces.

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January 16, 2008

:016 HEPA Vacuums

Filed under: :016 HEPA Vacuum — Tags: , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

Suggested Review – :015

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet. 

images-hepa-vac.jpg

1:5:10:016 Tip: Today’s tip deals with the best way to keep airborne particle counts low. Many people think it is by using a room air purifier, but using a HEPA vacuum cleaner when you clean, will help remove particles from surfaces before they can be reintroduced up into the air. This is especially important when vacuuming soft, upholstered surfaces and carpeting. A wide variety of vacuum cleaners are now being marketed to consumers with HEPA filters, but for a HEPA vacuum to truly be effective the filter must be sealed in place so all the air from the vacuum cleaner must pass through the filter before being exhausted into the air. HEPA canister vacuums generally perform better than upright models which tend to leak more particles back into the air. Many indoor environmental consulting firms have particle counters that can be used to check your vacuum cleaners particle removal efficiency.

Tomorrow I will talk about a way to change the way you vacuum carpet that won’t take any more time, but will pick up more dirt. 

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Additional Information

National Geographic’s Green Guide has a good review of vacuum cleaners at http://thegreenguide.com/reports/product.mhtml?id=20&sec=2

Also check out this Consumers Report and video at: http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/appliances/laundry-and-cleaning/vacuum-cleaners/vacuum-cleaners-10-06/overview/1006_vacuums_ov.htm

I’m partial to the Nilfisk vacuum shown above.

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January 15, 2008

:015 Vacuum Cleaner Bags

Filed under: :015 Vaccum Bags — Tags: , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

Suggested Review – none

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet. For the next several days my tips will involve vacuum cleaners.

vac-bags.jpg

1:5:10:015 Tip: Micro-filter bags are a better choice than standard vacuum cleaner bags because they are able to help filter out smaller particles. Traditional standard vacuum cleaners may do a good job of sucking up dirt, but the really tiny particles (like mold spores) go right through the bag material and are exhausted back into the air. Micro-filter bags are becoming available for most standard vacuum cleaners. They aren’t perfect, but they will reduce the number of small particles that escape back into the room air.

Tomorrow I will talk about an even more efficient way to get the small particles – HEPA vacuum cleaners.

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Additional Information

Most stores selling regular vacuum cleaner bags now offer micro-filter bags. This is the best option until you are ready to upgrade to a True-HEPA vacuum cleaner. 

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January 14, 2008

:014 Go Shoeless

Suggested Review – none

Welcome to today’s 1:5:10:365 Tip for becoming a better steward for our home and planet.

stackable-shoe-racks.png   

Frontgate stackable shoe racks

1:5:10:014 Tip: Leaving your shoes at the door is a common practice in many parts of the world. It is a good way to help reduce the amount of dirt and debris tracked into your home.

If you don’t like the feel of “no shoes”, then consider keeping a pair of “house shoes” or slippers at the door to slip on when the street shoes come off.

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Additional Information

Jeri Dansky is a professional organizer. She has a blog called “Jeri’s Organizing & Decluttering News”. Her October 17, 2007 post has some great tips for organizing your shoes at the door.

http://jdorganizer.blogspot.com/2007/10/leaving-your-shoes-at-door.html.   

It’s worth a look.

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January 13, 2008

:013 Gas Conservation

Suggested Review – :001, :002, :011, :012

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1:5:10:013 Tip: A pilot light is often used to ignite burners on natural gas and propane appliances. It allows you to turn off a gas appliance then reignite the burner when you turn it on again. Since pilot lights burn continuously they use energy 24/7. Electronic ignitions are now commonly used in energy efficient gas appliances to ignite the burner on demand. Older gas appliances still frequently have pilot lights. A study by the Canadian Gas Association found each standing pilot light on fireplaces and other appliances consume about 70 therms of natural gas each year.

Retrofit kits are available to convert pilot lights to electronic ignition. For fireplaces it is generally easy to  to turn the pilot light off when they are not being used.

Furnace system pilot lights may use 5 to 12 therms per month. The pilot light can be turned off during the time of year when the system is not being used.

Pilot lights were discontinued on gas clothes driers in the mid 1990’s, but many old driers still exist. Since new gas clothes driers use about half the energy – it may make sense to replace older models rather than trying to upgrade them. I will be posting more about evaluating appliances later.

Additional Information:

http://www.clarkpublicutilities.com/Residential/TheEnergyAdviser/06_03_26

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January 12, 2008

:012 Gas Leaks

Filed under: :012 Gas Leaks — Tags: , , , , , , — John Banta @ 12:01 am

Suggested Review – :001, :002, :011

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1:5:10:012 Tip:Gas Leaks can be dangerous and waste energy. Natural gas is odorless, but the utility company generally adds an odorant that makes it smell like old tennis shoes. Most “bottled gas” companies do the same – but not always.

A couple of weeks after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake I was called to a home where the owner was having headaches and feeling bad. There were no odors but I used my explosive gas meter anyway. What I discovered was the gas line to the hot water heater was leaking large amounts of gas. I evacuated the home and shut off the gas at the tank (located about 50 feet from the house). It amazes me that the home hadn’t already exploded. It turns out the hot water heater had been knocked over by the earthquake. It had been righted but not inspected.

You may be able to determine if there are hidden gas leaks using the same method you used for checking for hidden water leaks on day :009 –  but this is more difficult if you have pilot lights that continuously use (waste) gas. Tomorrow’s 1:5:10 Tip will cover this topic.

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Additional Information:

The experts at safety.com tell us:

“If you smell natural gas or suspect a gas leak, it is important to act quickly:

  • Leave the premises immediately, opening doors and extinguishing any open flames, if possible.
  • Do not unplug or plug in any electrical appliances, or turn off or on any light switches. This can cause a spark that could touch off a gas fire.
  • Call your gas company or 9-1-1 from a neighbor’s phone. Operating a telephone in your home can also cause a spark.
  • Do not smoke or light matches near your home. And be careful with some flashlights, as turning them on may cause a spark.
  • Do not re-enter your home until a gas company official has inspected the premises, made any necessary repairs, and deemed it safe.”

http://www.safety.com/articles/detecting-gas-leaks-and-what-to-do.html

If you can shut the gas off safely, this is how:

http://www.pge.com/safety/gas_electric_safety_home/gas_safety/turning_gas_off/

 

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